The Boston Red Sox have surprised almost all of baseball this season by becoming contenders after having the second worst record in franchise history. In the offseason they changed the culture of the team, ousting manager Bobby Valentine and negative influences like Josh Beckett, and have added players who have been known as “good guys” around the league, like Jonny Gomes and David Ross. The change has been day and night for the Sox, instead of the constant soap opera that was the Red Sox clubhouse coupled with losing game after game, they have quietly worked their way to the best record in the American League.
Now this hasn’t come without some difficulties on the way, though. The bullpen hasn’t had much success, with the only two consistent relievers being Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. Andrew Miller was working his way to joining the Japanese duo, but his season has ended due to foot surgery. The Sox’s starting rotation has also been inconsistent. Although it hasn’t been to the level of the bullpen, the rotation has had issues. After hot starts from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, they have both fallen off. Buchholz has struggled with injuries, while Lester hasn’t been able to pitch anywhere near the level he was at, at the beginning of the season. The last major problem the Sox have had is the left side of the infield. So far this year Jose Iglesias, Will Middlebrooks, Stephen Drew, Brandon Snyder, Jonathon Diaz, and Brock Holt have played either shortstop or third base this season, and aside from Jose Iglesias, none have been all that great. Currently the two men who were projected to be the starters for the year, Middlebrooks and Drew find themselves in the minors and on the DL respectively. Overall, those three areas are where they should consider upgrading at the trade deadline. Here are some names who may find themselves on the Red Sox come August:
NOTE: Since writing this the Red Sox acquired Matt Thornton and cash considerations from the White Sox for Brandon Jacobs.
Matt Thornton (CWS): The 36 year old, 10 year veteran reliever’s name has been mentioned in trade talks the past few years, and the Red Sox name always pops up. The Sox’s interest has likely picked in the lefty after losing Andrew Miller for the season leaving Craig Breslow as the only left handed reliever in the Sox’s pen. Thornton hasn’t been as dominant as he was in previous seasons, he’s still been better than a lot of the Red Sox’s relievers this year. He’s posted a 4.00 ERA, but has a career ERA of 3.54. He’s also only allowed 4 home runs, which has been the root of many of the Sox relievers problems. He’s been one of the top lefties in the game the past several years and shouldn’t cost too much based on his age and expiring contract ($6 million option for next season). He’d be a worthwhile investment for the Sox if they can get him for their price.
Bobby Parnell (NYM): The Mets’ closer has had ups and downs throughout his career, but the past couple of seasons he’s seemingly figured it all out and has become a force in the back end of the Mets’ bullpen. The hard throwing righty has posted 2.48 ERA in 48 innings pitched allowing no home runs and allowing just 9 walks. The Sox have reportedly had talks with the Mets about Parnell already, but their price was too much. More recently it appears like he’s been pulled off the market. It’ to be expected when a team has control over a player for multiple years and hope to contend with the player before they hit free agency. Parnell is first eligible for free agency in 2016, but the Mets are in dire indeed of assets to build around and Parnell can give them that. His value has never been higher, so it wouldn’t be shocking to find him in a Red Sox jersey by the end of the month.
Matt Garza (CHC): Matt Garza is a name known to many Sox’s fans. He spent 3 years pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He was part of the Rays team that knocked out the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS before losing in the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. Needless to say he’s pitched in big games before, although not recently, because of the deplorable state of the Cubs. Luckily for the Sox though, that same reason is why he’s available. Although they are reportedly working on a contract extension, due to the great interest they are more than likely to move him. He’s gotten off to a good start this year after being injured to begin the year. In 10 starts he’s had a 3.22 ERA while averaging 8.1 K/9. The down side to it all is dealing with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, former heads of the Red Sox front office. They know nearly every prospect in the Sox’s system and know who to pursue and who to avoid. If the Sox can find a way to get him for a reasonable price, but if the price is too high, then there’s no sense in going after a marginal upgrade.
Yovani Gallardo (MIL): The Brewers ace is widely considered to be the second best starter on the market, behind Garza. He’s been one of the Brewers top pitcher since 2009, but this year his numbers are at an all time low. If he continues to this trend he’ll have his highest ERA of his career by a wide margin and his lowest K/9 rate. His walks are down, but is batting average against is at an all time which negates that. All in in all it’s been a tough year for Gallardo, but his track record shows that he’s capable of being much better. Maybe a move to a winning atmosphere where he’s not looked as the ace could help him perform better, or he may just be starting is decline, although at 27 that is very unlikely. Also, moving to the American League, especially the east, could make matters even worse. The Sox should, and likely will, avoid Gallardo, unless they discover Clay Buchholz will miss a significant amount of time.
Francisco Rodriguez (MIL): K-Rod has had a bumpy road since setting the single season save record for the Angels. After that season he bolted for the glitz and glamor (and the money) of New York, where he stumbled on and off the field. He’s now in Milwaukee, and this year he’s seemingly regained his form. He’s appeared in just 22 games this season after starting the year in the minors. He’s posted a 1.25 ERA in 21.2 innings and striking out batters at a great rate, 10.38 per innings. He’s also allowed just .195 batting average against with a WHIP of just 1.06. Overall, he’s a risky pick up, but he could be worth it for the Sox.
Michael Young (PHI): Young fits in exactly with what the Sox have been doing. He’s one the most respected guys in the league who always puts the team first, but can he help them win games? After being the face of the Rangers for the better part of the past 13 years, he was shipped to Philadelphia and has responded well. He’s hitting .288/.344/.411 in 83 games with 6 home runs and 24 RBIs. Although the power is down a little he’s still performed better than all of the Red Sox’s other third basemen and shortstops. The Phillies gave up very little to get him and likely wouldn’t ask for much more in return. He’d be a great fit in the clubhouse and the lineup.
Chase Utley (PHI): This seems like an odd target with Utley being a long time second baseman, and has only played first and second base, but he told the Phillies he could play third if need be. If the Sox believe he can make a successful transition to third he might be a risk worth taking. Utley has batted .276/.340/.504 this year with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in just 61 games. The 5 time All Star has been arguably the Phillies most consistent hitter this year. It’d take a quality prospect or two to get the face of the Phillies franchise, but he may just be worth it.
Jonathon Papelbon (PHI): Last, but not least, every body’s favorite trade target the former Red Sox’s closer Jonathon Papelbon. One of the most dominant closers Boston has ever seen. He bolted for Philly following the collapse of 2011, but his new team didn’t perform up to expectations finishing with a 81-81 record. This year they appear to be out of the hunt once again, so the rumors start to swirl. Phillies GM has been adamant that he won’t move Papelbon, but that could be just for leverage. His contract runs through 2015, so if Amaro believes they can contend next year and/or the year after, he has a reason to hold on to him. The thing is, Papelbon is aging and so is the rest of the roster, so unloading big contacts might be the first step. The Sox are interested if the Phillies want to negotiate, but the price might be extremely high. If the Sox feel this is the year than they should go all in, but the reason they never paid him like the Phillies did was to avoid the back end of the deal, the same part they’d be picking up. Logically it doesn’t make sense, but the bullpen is in such disarray that the Sox might just go for it.
Obviously these aren’t the only options for the Red Sox, and they can numerous directions. All in all, I think the Sox will be aggressive at the deadline and try to improve the club as much as possible.